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In the city of Beijing, a German man dressed in a lavish suit sat patiently while drinking from the tea that had been provided to him by a rather beautiful Chinese woman. Sitting across from the man was the Ming Prince Zhu Zhi, who had visited the German embassy, which had been established over the past two years as a means to maintain friendship between the two empires.

The man in the exquisite suit was the ambassador that Germany had selected to represent their interests in the East. In truth, he was Adela's older brother Gerhard. Though Gerhard had once nearly sparked a conflict between his father and Berengar, he had since redeemed himself in the eyes of the Kaiser.

Zhu Zhi had a stern expression on his face when he heard the words that were spoken by Gerhard. He could only ask for the German ambassador to repeat himself, believing that perhaps he was mishearing things.

"I'm sorry. Can you repeat what you just said?"

Gerhard had a stoic expression on his handsome face as he finished sipping from his tea before placing it down on the small plate that was provided for it. He looked Zhu Zhi square in the eyes before repeating himself.

"The Kaiser demands that the Japanese political refugees that you have taken custody of be handed over to the Reich."

The Zhu Zhi took a deep breath. Obviously, the last thing he wanted to do was hand over such valuable assets. After all, many of these political refugees knew things, things that could help advance the Ming dynasty. However, the Ming Prince knew the lengths the Reich would go to in order to get what they desired, thus he tried to negotiate with Gerhard.

"What exactly do you need them for? I can't in good conscience hand them over to you, if you intent to harm them?"

The expression on Gerhard's face was priceless, as if the mere notion that Germany harmed its prisoners deeply insulted him. He sat upright in his seat before lecturing the man on German hospitality.

"We are not savages. The Kaiser intends to offer them asylum within the Reich, far from the reaches of Empress Itami's agents. In return for his good will, all he asks in return is information. However, this is not a simple request, it is a demand. Hand over every political refugee you have taken from the Japanese Empire, and all that you will gain control of in the future."

The real reason Berengar wanted these Japanese refugees was simply so that they could not not leak any industrial tech to the Ming Dynasty. The last thing Berengar needed in this world was an industrialized China. Such a fearsome adversary would be difficult to deal with. Thus, if he could prevent them from industrializing until they naturally achieved it on their own, it would be best for everyone.

Prince Zhu Zhi sighed when he heard Gerhard's bullshit. He knew the real reason the Reich was making this demand, but there was not much he could do. If he were to refuse, Germany was sure to use some unscrupulous means to achieve their goals. Whether it was kidnapping or outright total warfare, the Ming Prince knew from personal experience that Berengar would not hesitate to use whatever means was required to gain that which he desired.

The official Ming policy in the Cold War between the German Empire and the Empire of Japan was one of neutrality. However, in secret, they favored the Reich, if not simply due to the fact that Germany and its Kaiser had no interest in the region, whereas Itami wanted to control the east as her personal domain.

Berengar had even made some promises to the Ming Emperor that he would not interfere with the Ming Dynasty's sphere of influence once the Japanese had been defeated in the upcoming war. To Berengar, it wasn't a matter of whether war would happen; it was a matter of when the fighting would begin. From his perspective, he was already at war with Itami and her Japanese Empire.

After thinking about Gerhard's words for several moments, Zhu Zhi let out a heavy sigh, and rested his forehead in the palm of his hand. Just why did the great Ming Dynasty have to endure the whims and wishes of these two foreign empires? Had they really fallen so far behind the rest of the world? Ultimately, he nodded his head and submitted to the power of the Reich, even if he didn't want to.

"Very well, I will hand over the Japanese Refugees to the Reich. To be honest, it has been an ordeal harboring them. Empress Itami demands that we hand them over to her so that she can execute them, and is even threatening sanctions against us if we refuse to do so.

In case you are not already aware. Our people have become accustomed to Japanese luxury goods. If we were to suddenly stop receiving shipments, it would cause a great deal of civil unrest. All I ask is that when you take these refugees off our hands, you make it seem as if they voluntarily came with you. The last thing I need is Empress Itami, cutting off trade."

Gerhard scoffed when he heard this before taking another sip of his tea. There was a very obvious solution to this problem, which he did not hesitate to voice.

"You know anything the Japanese can manufacture, the Reich can copy. Hell, I guarantee you that we would be able to make a better product, and in much larger supply. Why don't you just purchase these luxury goods from us?"

Zhu Zhi shook his head, which was a bit unexpected to Gerhard, but the reasoning he used to reject the offer was solid, and thus the German Ambassador could not be mad at the Ming Prince.

"If I were to do that, the economy of Japan would crumble. Which would cause their empress to become desperate. If you want to see what happens when that woman becomes desperate, just look at what happened to the Joseon Kingdom. Or India, for that matter. You have heard the news about Itami's little puppet, right?"

Gerhard once more took a sip from his tea and nodded his head before responding to the man's question.

"The Reichs' stance on Emperor Asha's atrocious actions within South-east Asia is one of condemnation. However, the Kaiser has plans to deal with the man soon enough. Which is why I wanted to discuss something else with you. Something that will prove to be of vital importance to the Japanese Empire's defeat.

The Kaiser wishes for the Ming to begin their expansion into South Indochina. I'm sure you can cook up an excuse that would validate your conquest of the region. Besides, it will give your troops the field experience they need to become proficient in the use of their new weapons."

Zhu Zhi raised his brow when he heard this. It was well within his power to reject this request. After all, the Ming were not a subordinate to the Reich, however he wanted to hear the reasoning behind this suggestion and was thus quick to inquire about it.

"What exactly is in south Indochina that is so important for you to request that our Empire go to war?"

Gerhard wore a crafty smile when he heard this question and was happy to oblige with an answer.

"There is a rather vast deposit of a specific resource within the region, one that Itami will need if she wishes to contend with the Reich on the battlefields. Currently, she is making use of her Bengal puppet to import the mineral, but once the Indian subcontinent is under our control, she will be forced to look elsewhere for it.

Currently, the only place in Asia that has this mineral, which isn't already under our sphere of influence, is south Indochina. Since you already control the north as a vassal, I figured you would like to take this opportunity to cut off the Japanese from this critical resource, one that could be the deciding factor in our future conflict."

It immediately startled the Ming Prince to hear this news. He had many questions, and not enough time to ask them all. He was also fairly certain Gerhard would be rather obstinate if he were to actually press him on the matter. Thus, after several moments of silence, the Ming prince asked the most important question on his mind.

"If we do this, won't Empress Itami see this as a declaration of war? After all, we will be depriving her of this supposedly valuable resource. One that could determine the outcome of her war with the Reich."

Despite this concern, Gerhard appeared to be completely calm, as he raised his finger and wagged it as if lecturing the Ming Prince for overthinking things.

"Not at all, Empress Itami, has her eyes set on India. She believes that Asha can provide her with as much of this resource as she desires, and the fool would gladly do so. In truth, the Japanese have vastly underestimated our military might.

Within three years, all of India will be under the control of our puppet, and Asha will be dead. By the time she realizes this, and begins searching for an alternative source, you will have already taken the last deposit.

If she decided to call you out on this, you can simply deny any knowledge of this material, as I doubt you would understand what it is, let alone how to refine it. So how about it? Don't you think it's about time all of Indochina became your great Empire's vassal?"

Zhu Zhi sipped from his teacup while he reflected on this notion. Ultimately, he sighed once more before giving his response.

"I will try to persuade my father on the merits of your suggestion. However, I can't guarantee he will respond in the way you desire. If that is all you have to discuss for the day, then I will see myself out."

Gerhard merely smiled and nodded, allowing the Ming Prince to return to his family's palace. As for whether the Ming Emperor would agree to launch an invasion of south Indochina, Gerhard was fairly certain he would do so. The benefits outweighed the costs, and if the Ming Emperor was as wise as he was said to be, he would surely act on this intel.